Apr 29, 2023

on alice potts’ baseball caps, human sweat crystallizes and mutates into frozen gems

At first glance, the wearable art-piece hats of Alice Potts are seemingly designed with ice blocks, frozen but not melting. As soon as the viewers are informed, they learn that these shards of white gems are crystallized from liters of sweat. For her recent hat series ‘INPerspire,’ Alice Potts asked eight individuals to wear a cap over six weeks while they went about their normal day.

As they moved and hustled, the sweat that dripped in their head embedded into the fibers of the hats, slowly crystallizing to ornate the caps. These art pieces (more about that here) are a visual representation of each individual at a time in their lives to showcase new sustainable ways to design, how designers can re-imagine new materials, and how people decide to wear fashion pieces that can double as objects of art.

crystallized sweat of Will Hawkins | images courtesy of Alice Potts | all photos by James Stopforth

‘Everyone ranges in how much they sweat a day from around 0.5 to 2 liters during an average hour of exercise to anything from around 3 liters a day without even moving around. For each liter, you can get between 10 to 50 grams of saturated salt solution. Each of these hats was worn over 6 weeks while they lived their normal lifestyle, allowing their sweat to embed into the fibers of these pieces allowing the crystals to "seed" from within each product,’ Alice Potts tells designboom.

After the sweat has been collected, Potts says it needs to be purified and separated from any external impurities that can normally be found on the skin and clothing. Once placed in the salt solution, it only took 10 hours for the crystalized salt to grow and mutate. ‘The caps are already saturated with each individual's sweat to act like a seed within the fibers meaning that when placed into the solution it acts like a jigsaw growing from within the material,’ Potts shares with designboom. The work was supported by and is set to be exhibited by Vancouver Art Gallery, for an exhibition "Fashion Fictions" starting between May 27th, 2023 and October 9th, 2023 in Canada.

crystallized sweat of Will Hawkins

Alice Potts began working with sweat crystallization during her Masters at the Royal College of Art in 2016 as a Fashion Accessory student. ‘My background was mostly based around mathematics, science, and sports, thinking the right way for me to move forward was to go into sportswear. I always struggled to design so I spent more time focusing on the materials and allowing them to educate the choices of design I made,’ she explains to designboom.

Once, the biomaterial specialist stumbled upon a biodesign course run where she learned how to develop her materials organically. ‘Combining who I was and what I knew about the body, I was able to create this new material that was true of who I was and how I see people and nature,’ she says.

One of the recent results culminates in ‘INPerspire’ project where Potts looks at a diversity of people from London with different backgrounds and lifestyles who sweat in a variety of ways, from jobs dedicated to sport, fully vegan diets, office jobs with active lifestyles to people who live for the rave culture.

crystallized sweat of Alice Potts

During the creation of the crystallized sweat on hats, Potts observed that every person has different sweat and structures based on a whole number of different factors. ‘They can be broken down with chromatography to identify the exact biological makeup. The main visual aesthetic is the structure between men and women with females making very pointed crystals and males making a flatter peak,’ she shares with designboom. The series – in collaboration with Reigning Champs, Tensaga, and Section 35 – marks a new beginning for Potts in delving into the fusing of fashion and sustainable materials for the fitness realm.

‘Fitness for me was one of the key factors that helped me understand sustainability. Through my work, I have always tried to use nature and our own bodies to allow us to reconnect with the real world. With the introduction of technology, it's way easier to disassociate from the real world through my sweat projects. I try to get people to connect with themselves and realize how amazing and individual their bodies truly are while also encouraging each participant to get out of being indoors and try to sweat,’ she tells designboom.

crystallized sweat of Alice Potts

close-up crystallized sweat of Alice Potts

Vancouver Art Gallery